Christian Short Stories

Web writes: "Since retiring some 15 years ago my wife and myself do lots of volunteering and play in our church's hand-bell choir."

The No-Clash Factor
By Web Ruble

Everything looked okay. My bells were all brassy-shiny on the cloth top, and in military order.

The conductor -- one of the best I am told -- mounted the podium and said a few words. In a big echoing auditorium and with my lousy hearing, I could not understand what he was saying. I always have that problem. I try putting in my hearing aids but that seldom helps. Like this time.

It was same aggravating old home weekend: I miss so much. After a while I do what I often do -- just sort of give up. Excruciating tension forces me to withdraw from the world. Consequently I always have to bother a nearby person by asking him or her what was said and what happens next. To say that 'tis frustrating doesn't quite cover it. "Terrible" does. Not being able to hear forces me to the soulful margin and keeps me there -- isolated from the world. And my neighbors remain disgusted.

However, there was one good thing about this Tacoma venue. When it came time to refer some 400 of us handbell ringers -- gathered as an Area 10 Conference in a huge convention center -- to a certain passage on the music chart, I somehow was able to understand him. "Measure 51" would be clear enough for me to follow. That much, at least, was wonderful.

By concentrating harder than I can ever remember doing, I was able to follow him fairly well. And I could hear the tones well. What a joy! Yet, 'twas exhausting.

That's why I was not ready for the next screw up.

Being one of two male dudes in Smith Memorial Presbyterian Church's 10-member hand bell choir, I had the bigger dongers: low (Octave 3) E-flat, E, F, F-sharp, G, A-flat, A and sometimes B-flat. There they were in front of me in handsome order. However, lurking just beneath their bronze domes -- or perhaps even the felt on which the bells were resting - lurked sinister trouble.

Trouble. With a T. That goes with Tacoma. And that T also also goes with terrible. Because that's what it was.

T can also be for travel. As my bells do travel. In other words, they won't stay put on the covering cloth. They roll. And usually they roll together, causing a jarring clash. T=Terrible.

This time I was unable to stop them. I just could not keep them apart. The assembled ringers cruised through the whole score. I was still trying to anchor my bells. Maddening. I tried pressing down on the felt. I even stuck a mallet between the E and E-flat. Finally, toward the end of that first run-through I was able to sort of keep them from clashing.

Now, most hand bell choirs are exponents of some church somewhere. In other words the ringers generally are loving Christians. That's why when I let out an occasional expletive it doesn't go over too well. This time I said a couple of never-never words (under my breath of course), and I hoped nobody heard me. But I almost didn't care. I was angry.

Of all things to go wrong. Why couldn't the bells stay anchored where I put them? Unreasonable.

Something was terribly wrong. I simply could not proceed with this sort of malady. Moreover, my choir needed me. What to do?

Between melodies and the conductors' spiels, I said a prayer: "Lord please help me. I am oh so lost on what to do. Stand beside me as I try to play these next tunes.

Well, He must have. Because that was the end of the chronic travel trouble. Once in a while I would still win a minor glitch. But from that prayer onward, the major clashing trouble was no more.


I was able to play through the whole ringing weekend -- especially the
festival-ending concert.

Such a performance with some 400 others made for a great weekend. Glory to God. A feeling of accomplishment.

However, I became keenly aware that it wasn't me. It was God's hand that guided me. I couldn't have done it without him. Nobody could. After all, the talents that I have -- and that everyone else has -- are gifts from Him.

I need to remember that.

He gave me a glorious weekend. I hope that I may have returned part of it to Him.

(© 2012 Web Ruble – All rights reserved. Written material may not be duplicated without permission.)

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